The Influence of American Television on Audiences

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The Influence of American Television on Audiences
On April 30, 1939, the first television broadcast was unveiled to the audiences of North America at the New York World’s Fair opening in Flushing Meadows, Queens. Feelings of awe and amazement were shared throughout the crowds. However, with the emergence of the Second World War in the very same year, real growth for the television was delayed and as a result did not truly begin until the early 1950s. At this point in time, the television became commonplace in a great deal of homes across North America—incorporated into the daily lives of families that could afford it. A set was commonly found in kitchens, bedrooms, even in bathrooms. The television was claimed to “bring family together”—idealistic for this postwar time period in which family togetherness was well sought after by families that had been torn apart and separated by the war. The introduction of the television brought about significant changes in society including education of the public, the rise in consumerism, and the surfacing of the post-traditional family for example. Lynn Spigel, author and associate professor at the University of Southern California, argued that with the emergence of the television as the new focal point for family attention, audiences were unified and brought together in some aspects, while divided and segregated in others. I would disagree to an extent, however, by saying that television has caused more harm than good where the ties between families are concerned. Initially, the introduction of the television into the daily lives of families did play a role in creating a stronger sense of unification in how it strengthened the ties between families and brought them closer together by generating shared points of interest and discussion and by keeping families together spatially. Early advertisements for the television depicted families sitting closely together in a semi-circle around the television set, enjoying each other’s company in a sort of “romantic haze”. This idea of a family circle became a cliché associated with the television set—it emphasized the television’s crucial role in reuniting families both emotionally and physically after the hardship faced by so many during the Second World War. In fact, in many advertisements for the television, the actual product wasn’t even the centre of attention—instead, the family, in the centre of the ad with their eyes glued on the screen, was the main focus. The television set became a staple in the typical nuclear family household—it replaced the fireplace and piano as a means for family time and bonding. Instead of gathering around the hearth, families would gather around the television set. Family members would now find the time in their busy individual schedules to gather around the television with their wives, husbands, and children to catch a program on TV and spend some time together. Women confessed to how the television played a big role in helping to increase their romantic relations with their husbands—one woman stated, “My husband and I get along a lot better. We don’t argue so much. It’s wonderful for couples who have been married ten years or more….Before television, my husband would come in and go to bed. Now we spend some time together”. Popular television shows of the time such as I Love Lucy sparked a shared interest and connection amongst family members—they now had something in common that they could discuss as a family. In addition to this, the television became a reason for children to choose more commonly to stay at home with the family and watch TV rather than go outside and cause mischief and trouble with friends, which provided great relief to worried parents. In spite of all this, over time, these unifying effects on the family eventually paled in comparison to the seemingly detrimental consequences that the television set displayed on the relationships within the typical family. For...
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